Martin Amis – RIP

I didn’t start reading fiction in earnest until I was 22, the age at which I finally left academia behind. It was 1987, my first job was in Central London and I was renting a flat in Finchley which meant I had a commute with time to kill and time to fill. I had money, my own flat (albeit shared+rented) and a growing circle of friends. Most notably, we suddenly had no studying or homework to do, we had cash in our pockets and our weekends and weekday evenings were ours – no homework, no parents, just us, and for me that created space for reading.

I read on the train on the way in to work, I read on the way home and I left books on my office desk, partly to impress, partly to sneak read at lunchtime and partly to spark conversation. I liked reading and I started to like, and be attracted to, booky people.

I can’t remember why, but Martin Amis was one of the first novelists I read, and ‘Success’ was one of the first books. It may have been a recommendation, but it could just as easily have been the enticing book cover in an Islington bookshop that drew me in. I knew of his father, Kingsley, and had tried and failed to read one of his books, so maybe I felt the son might be more relatable.

I was in my 20s, Martin Amis was just about still in his 20s when he wrote Success, it was set in London, I was in London, some of it was even in Islington … and the main character Gregory was desperate to get a girlfriend. I was a long way from home and whilst I wasn’t lonely, I was often alone, and Success seemed to resonate. I can’t remember a lot about the book, but this isn’t meant to be a review, it’s a homage. What I do remember is feeling quite sophisticated, but not in a pretentious way. It felt grown up to be reading Martin Amis novels.

Success wasn’t a very big book either and so it wasn’t long before I read my second Martin Amis novel – Dead Babies. It was an edgy title and had a cool cover. From what I recall, it was essentially a book about a weekend long party, but what I enjoyed the most was the characters and the back stories. There was sex, drugs and misogyny, although I would never have used that word back then. But what I found utterly fascinating were the characters, experiencing a world far more dangerous, darker and sexier than the world I inhabited. I didn’t want to be there, but I wanted a ticket, it was utterly compelling and I never knew fiction could quite be like that. I also discovered how much I love characterisations in a novel, much more than plot-lines and that has stayed with me to this day.

I then read The Rachel Papers, which had by far the best cover and left the strongest impression on me. The book is essentially about a dickhead called Charles, but it was Rachel I fell in love with, or rather I fell in love with the idea of Rachel. The book left me feeling sad, a peculiar feeling as I never wanted to be in there – Charles was a dickhead, that much I remember – but those characters were immersive, I wanted to be swimming in and around their lives for a lot longer than the book allowed.

To me, these books were a trilogy, although I’m not sure if they were ever formally called that. To me, they told stories of a life lived in close proximity to my own, but also a million miles away, and that perhaps made it all the more fascinating and enticing. I wanted it but I didn’t want to be part of it.

Reading the Martin Amis trilogy ’87-’88 re-launched my love for fiction. I realised that reading fiction didn’t have to mean reading Classics. Reading could be now, it could be here, it could be edgy, dark, funny and contemporary. In fact Amis taught me that reading could be whatever you wanted it to be, it needn’t be safe, nor pre-approved, and that sparked something inside of me that slowly smouldered for years as I browsed north London bookshops on my lunch breaks and rainy Saturdays, forever searching for the next great novel.

I only read two more Martin Amis novels, falling off the Amis wagon after Money and London Fields. I’m not sure why I stopped there, perhaps I had outgrown him, perhaps it was just time to move on. In truth I think he had outgrown me, he became too cerebral, too Will Self before Will Self was in fact himself. Whatever, we diverged, but hearing of his passing this week I am left feeling quite saddened. Amis set me off on a literary journey for which I will be forever grateful. RIP Martin and thank you for my trilogy.


Equinoxe was an album released by Jean-Michel Jarre in 1978. I was 13. I have no recollection how I came by that album – at the time I was heavily influenced by my peers yet nobody had this album nor knew of this mysterious, foreign artist.

Nor was it my genre – electronic, instrumental – a far cry from the pop and heavy rock that filled my music collection at that time.

But come by it I did, and I quickly became utterly fixated by it. Even the album cover had me hooked. I didn’t understand anything of it, I didn’t pick out a concept, it was just the whole package that fired something inside of me.

I played this album to death in the late 70s but lost touch with it at some point in the 80s. I never bought or listened to any other JMJ music, that was it, it was there, it was utterly mesmerising, then it was gone.

Fast forward to 2022 and I come across this album on Apple Music, I download it (complete with theatre going binoculared aliens graphic) and give it a listen. And within seconds I am transported back to 1978. I knew every note on every track. Emotions were stirred that I’m sure are the same emotions I experienced when I heard the same notes back in ‘78.

44 years have passed and yet it’s like it was yesterday. Utterly compelling, beautiful, emotional. That music can do that is testament to just how important music is for us. I can think of nothing else that could stir up such memories, such emotion, from such depths, over such a large period of time, as music can.

Wherever you are Jean-Michel, thank you from me and from my earlier self.

The Covid-isolation 1 mile garden invitational

Today I was joined by Dottie for the first running of the Ramsden Garden 1-mile invitational, conceived yesterday and implemented today. The event took place in ‘ar-garden’ in north Buckinghamshire, England.

The terrain is mixed – mainly grassy, but also very leafy this time of year and participants have rated ‘slippage’ as one of the key hazards to watch out for. Apples are also a potential bug-bear, here’s Andy, when asked for his initial impressions:

“There’s thousands of bastard apples, hidden under leaves ‘an all, it’s not reyt!”

Andy Ramsden, participant #1 talking about course conditions

Unfortunately due to Covid restrictions, other humans were banned from entry on account of having too low a viral load – no negativity at the inaugural Covid-isolation 1 mile garden invitational thank you very much, and so Andy and Dottie claimed their respective number 1 and number 2 participant badges and got stuck right in to matters.

Dottie unfortunately rather sullied events by taking her No.2 event number a little too literally and proceeded to take a dump in the middle of the course, making matters rather tricky for all involved.

Here’s Dottie looking rather shame faced post-partum:

Dottie post-partum

Controversy never seems far away when Dottie is around and so it came as no surprise to anyone to see Dottie try and SABOTAGE her opponent at the half-mile stage! Here she can be seen clearly untying the laces of participant 1, Andy.


The rest of the event passed uneventfully and the 1-mile challenge was completed in less than 33 minutes, a new course record by a Covid viral load carrying human.

297 calories were burned by the hoo-man and heart rates were elevated to a peak of 132bpm.

Dottie, still clearly bristling from poo-gate, refused to comment if she would participate again next time but she did make it very clear that she would ‘crap where she wants, when she wants, as is my right as a Black Lab’.

This matter has been brought to the attention of the Black Labs Matter Sherington committee and is currently under review.

Poster spotted on the willow tree at the 1mile invitational earlier today

Nobody’s fault (but mine) …

Six months ago I weighed 5kg less than I do today, and I was fat then. I’ve noticed recently that tying my shoelaces makes me quite breathless – I think my engorged, swollen belly is so severely cramped in the downward-facing-lace-tying position that I restrict the oxygen supply to half my body. Tying laces has become hazardous business.

Six months ago I also had a resting heart rate of 59, whereas today it is 72. My heart is having to work harder to pump blood presumably because it’s getting weaker – a pump of my old ticker is like the trickle of wee from my old todger – pitiful and a shadow of its former self; two of my favourite organs, underperforming.

I’m getting a hairy back too, I know that because I can see them when I look in the mirror. It’s as though the hair follicles on my head are upping sticks and relocating further south – same amount of hair, just a different location. And as a relocating follicle you are not restricted to the back region by the way, you could also opt for my ears or my nostrils – all comers apparently welcome.

The first two (paragraphs) reflect something rather more serious, the third less so. My hair I can do little about, and other than vanity is of little consequence. Yes, I could maybe evict the migrant pubic travellers periodically with a waxy potion – their southerly migration will proceed unabated, of that I’m sure, but their progress can at least be curtailed. But to what end?

Whereas my heart health, well, I can do something about that should I choose, my weight too, these two are not unrelated of course. And of course I should do something. These darker miscreants are very much under my control, manifestations of my behaviour, self inflicted wounds and sure signs of a life lived non-too wisely for far too long.

Tomorrow, like you, I shall have a choice. I can either choose to continue my covidisolation (day 8) cloaked in familiar excuses, or I can face my challenges head on with a renewed vigour and focus. Getting old is shit, but getting old and fat is shitter. Time to disrobe from my excuses – Achilles’ tendons tear, loved ones die, viruses strike and hair heads south.

But organs don’t have to exponentially decay. Hearts can get stronger, diets can be controlled and drinks can be drunk responsibly. Life can be made better through careful and considered choice. It’s not like watching a football team where you watch and hope, of course bad luck can always strike anyone, but you can stack the health odds somewhat in your favour. And that’s achieved through participation, by actively doing, not by passively watching and hoping.

Covid Quarantine

I felt a little under the weather on Friday 5th November, then finally tested positive to Covid-19 through a Lateral Flow test on Sunday 7th November. We had friends staying at our house, and neither the friends, nor other family members had contracted Covid before and so I very quickly (and entirely understandably) became persona-non-grata. I immediately holed myself up in the bedroom and closed the door. Our guests politely but efficiently packed up and left and my wife and youngest son adopted the role of becoming my provider.

Food, drinks, books, play-stations were all brought to my door and left. I would collect these items, consume them and leave the dirty dishes, cutlery, cups and saucers outside my door where they would be collected. It was like living in a hotel, it is like living in a hotel, for I am still here five days later. It’s now Friday 12th November, I’ve recorded 5 Positive LF tests and earlier today I received confirmation that my PCR test was also positive. The positive PCR test kickstarted the test+trace program, I detailed everyone I had met and everywhere I had been in the days prior to infection and the system set about pinging people.

The symptoms haven’t been too bad at all – I am double vaccinated and would describe my ailments as being a ’heavy cold’ at worst – headache, sore throat, hot and cold flushes, dizziness.

I thought I would read a lot – what an opportunity, what a perfect excuse to do nothing except indulge in pleasures of the mind. I planned my time – 10 days with no obligation to do anything – I would write, read, sleep. I would lose weight, emerging from my solitude and taking everyone by surprise with my physical and mental transformation.

I am half way through this experiment and none of this has happened. None. I have books, I have TV, I have music, I have a phone, I have an iPad, I have a journal. I have everything I need. So how have I spent these past 5 days? I’ve spent them doing all and none of these things. I start to read but I get tired or bored. I turn to Netflix but I can’t decide what to watch and so I flick from programme to programme. I turn off electrical devices and open a book, but then I get tired and fall asleep. I wake up at 3am and reach for my phone, easily burning 1.5 hrs on social media. I wake and feel tired but it doesn’t matter for I have nowhere to go, I make plans for my day knowing full well I will follow none of them, continuing to flit like a butterfly from TV to PS4 to iPhone to book to iPad to bed to TV …

The days roll by steadily in a hazy blur. I try everything and achieve nothing. This is life in quarantine, just like real life – grand plans ignored, projects deemed too difficult and so are quickly discarded only to be replaced by everything … and nothing.

So what did you do in quarantine? Oh I did everything! PS4! Netflix! Books!But what did you do? I did nothing except take procrastination to another level.

My wife and son test daily and thankfully have remained Covid negative to date, so at least I haven’t passed this on beyond the four walls of my bedroom. Oh and I wrote this blog entry.

Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Snapping my Achilles …

It was during a game of badminton with my wife when I made that innocent lunge forward for the shuttlecock and my Achilles snapped. That explosive forward motion I made was accompanied by a loud *SNAP* sound and it felt very much like I had just been hit hard on the back of my leg with a football. Imagine therefore my surprise when I turned round and saw nobody, except my brother who was watching from the sidelines.

“Was that your leg?” He said, looking ever so pale.
“Shit, yes, I think it was” I replied, in shock and confusion before falling into a crumpled heap on the floor.

The next few minutes were weird. There was no pain, but when I touched my leg, where I would usually feel an Achilles tendon, I felt nothing except soft tissue, my finger just sank in. For 56 years there had always been a strong tendon which connected my calf muscle to my foot but now it was gone.

My wife had the foresight to call the physio who promptly arrived with a bag of ice.

“If you heard a SNAP it’s almost certainly your Achilles” she confirmed.
“Shit, yes, it went SNAP” I replied.

I went straight to A&E where I had a mid-pandemic 4.5hr wait to see a consultant who told me I had certainly damaged my Achilles, but they couldn’t confirm the extent of the damage until they did a scan. They couldn’t do a scan that Saturday so they put me in a slab cast and told me to come back on Monday.

When you damage your Achilles they set your foot in a rather severe downward angle, making your leg and foot a straight line (or as near as they can get to one). That shortens the Achilles which makes the task of tendon reconnection/regrowth more likely. Having your foot set in this downward position also makes it impossible to weight bear. There’s also a significant enough risk of DVT/clotting for them to mandate daily blood thinner injections into my stomach.

On the Monday the ultrasound scan confirmed a full rupture of my Achilles. It had snapped in two. There are two courses of action – surgery or non-surgery. I was told I was in the latter camp, I would be left to self heal. Cynics might say that’s the cheapest option, but surgery does seem to carry some risks, and apparently my tear was a good tear (I felt so proud) making self heal a more likely successful outcome.

I wore the initial slab cast for a week before being transferred into a full leg cast. Crutches were my new best friend even though we didn’t get along too well. Non weight bearing crutch walking is hellish, especially so if you are carrying weight (check!) and don’t have very good upper body strength (check!).

For a month I was completely dependent on my family, principally my wife. Non-weight bearing crutch walking requires two hands at all times, which means you can’t make a cup of tea or carry ANYTHING. I wasn’t just reliant on people cooking for me, I also needed them to fetch things to me and take them away again. It was like being a teenager. Walking to the bathroom was a monumental effort but was the only thing I could do unaided. Sleeping is hellish and injecting myself daily with blood thinners is scary and something I will never get used to.

I still have a long way to go. I must wear the boot for at least five more weeks, removing a heel wedge every two weeks to gradually lengthen the (hopefully self repairing) Achilles tendon. The boot must be worn 24hrs a day (although I can remove it to wash the leg/foot) but that’s the only relief I get. I still have to administer daily blood thinner injections into my belly.

In five more weeks, depending on progress, I may transition out of the boot into more normal footwear, hopefully dispensing altogether with the crutches (and blood thinners), but then and only then does the serious work of rehab/physio begin. Google is replete with horror stories of people who re-rupture after a break because they didn’t rehab correctly. Muscles waste quickly, my injured leg is already noticeably thinner and weaker – I can’t tense my calf muscle any more; it feels more like a bag of mashed potato than a muscle and it’s only week five.

I’m having to learn to be patient. I’m also deeply appreciative of what a privilege it is to be healthy. I desperately miss going outdoors, and whilst I deeply appreciate the care I am receiving, I hate being so dependent on others.

Running is my big love but that’s not even a remote possibility for a long time yet, and aged 56 there’s a chance I may never run again. That’s an awfully depressing thought, but if I regain enough strength and mobility to just be able to go for a walk, that would be truly magnificent and I would grab that opportunity with both hands right now. To be able to walk is to be able to be independent, to do things for oneself. If I can walk then I can drive and if I can walk and drive then it means I have independence and free will.

At the moment all privileges have been revoked and I remain a prisoner, caged in by my own inability to walk, all because of a bloody shuttlecock. However, I am still here, I’m not in much pain and I am lucky enough to have people who help me and care for me. So whilst I get frustrated watching the summer pass by outside, I really do have a lot to be thankful for.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring, so the best thing we can all do is just live the heck out of right now. Squeeze the juice out of today because when you think of it, that’s all we can ever do.

The all seeing I

2020 has been a year to knock all previous years into a cocked hat. At least in my lifetime, and I’m really old.

First, my mum died, and then Covid happened, actually they happened around the same time, although they weren’t necessarily related (even though I have some doubts). My mum had underlying causes, that’s for sure, and at the time that was good enough for the death certificate, at least for them that writes death certificates.

“What’s your job?”
“I’m a Death Certificate writer”
“I noticed you capitalised ‘Death’ and ‘Certificate’, why?”
“It’s my job, jobs get capitalised”
“Only if the job precedes a person’s name, e.g, President Obama, not after, e.g, Barack Obama, president of the United States”
“Wow, did you just make that up?”
“Not exactly, Trump is president, but Obama was president – President Obama”
“Wow, I think you’ve just set a precedent there with your use of grammar”
“Precedent? Or President?”

When mum died it made me and my brother parentless. Some might say it made ‘my brother and I’ parentless, but they wouldn’t say that without receiving a right slap across the chops.

This particular event was a first, obviously, because you don’t get parentless BEFORE a parent dies *rollseyes*. And so we’re next on the conveyor belt of life, in one way scary, and in another, exhilarating. This is it, and like David Blaine hanging from a balloon, there’s only two ways this can play out, one way is much less stark than the other.

We don’t know what’s next, it might pass us whilst we sleep …

“I’m tired”, I said
“You always look tired”, she said
“I’m admired”, I said”
“You always look tired”, she said

She knew.

All Quiet on the Western Front

I’ve just finished reading this book by Erich Maria Remarque, a German writer, writing about the experiences of seven very young German men (boys) who were sent to fight on the Western front line in the First World War.

It’s not just a beautifully written book, it’s also an insight and perspective I hadn’t seen or read about previously – a view of war from the other side.

I grew up and learned about the world wars but always from ‘our’ side. But when you read this, you realise there are no sides, not on the front line, there are just two groups of scared, frightened young men, fighting for something they didn’t understand.  They were all just kids who lived, loved, and laughed just like you and me … but who ultimately sacrificed their lives.

Today we are lucky, yet still we see inequality, unfairness and violence all around us. ‘Im Westen nicht Neues’, written in 1929, is timeless. It’s one of those books that isn’t just beautifully written, it also makes you stop and think just how precious and delicate life is, and how we all need to make the very most of the brief time we have.

If this book tells us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t be fighting anyone else’s wars but our own – to live our lives as honourably and as compassionately as we can.

Books that reawakened my love of reading

I believe that books are like music, deeply personal artefacts, which makes them difficult to recommend to others.  Yes, there are metrics that make recommendation easier – the quality of the writing, the style and of course the topic itself, but that’s just a small part isn’t it? Don’t you also have to throw into the mix your mood at the time of reading, your personal circumstances, your age, your attitudes, the current economic climate, current trends, etc, etc?

I’m going to list some books here that I rediscovered recently in the loft whilst looking for something else. I hadn’t forgotten these books, but I had forgotten I still had them, and upon seeing them I received such an instant rush of delight, such strong flashbacks to a time in my life when I actually remember very little, yet the reawakened memories from seeing these books invoked a real sense of nostalgia.

These books were all read by me between 1987 and 1990 (+ 1993) (aged 22-25 (+ 28)). I started my first job in London in September ’86 and finally freed from academic study, plus a commute down the northern line, I suddenly had time to read, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

  • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D Salinger
    I bought this from a second-hand bookshop off Islington High Street in 1986. I can remember buying it, but I can’t remember why (probably because I thought it looked and sounded cool). I don’t remember that much about the book, but I do remember Holden Caulfield, and even though he was a 1950s kid growing up in America, I liked him, I identified with him. He found the world challenging and I guess as a young man living in a new city with few friends, starting my first job, I shared a few of Holden’s angsts. I look at the book now and I don’t think I could read it again, despite all those memories. I read it at exactly the right time, and that’s my point about books, you can’t recommend ‘feelings’.
  • The Cider House Rules/A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
    July ’87 (I used to write inside my books). This was my second Irving novel after reading The World According To Garp (a book I think I gave away). I loved Garp so much I searched more from Irving and this happened to be next. John Irving was so good at creating characters and Homer Wells was no exception. This is a big book, one of those ‘life’ books that follows Homer throughout his life. Weird and wonderful (often unreal) things happen to Homer but it doesn’t matter, this isn’t a book about story so much as it’s a book about people.  I loved Homer Wells and I devoured that book on my commute – 730 pages – in just a few short days. I read ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ whilst inter-railing in 1990 and I consider Garp, Homer and Owen to be good friends of mine.
  • Success/Dead Babies/Rachel Papers – Martin Amis
    I felt I had to try British authors and stumbled upon Martin Amis, possibly recommended by a friend. I don’t think these three books were a trilogy, but I read them that way – all between ’87 and ’88 – they’re all published in the same style and all based around young people (my age), living in London (my new town). Amis was (is?) a brilliant writer and I loved the Englishness (perhaps after reading American literature it felt fresh and more closer to home). These books are about lives of young people living loose and fast. Drugs, sex and booze are rife, morals are dubious, far removed from my life (except maybe for the booze) and perhaps it was the escapism and naughtiness I liked most.  Rachel Papers made the most impact on me. I think I fell in love with Rachel, it wasn’t always an easy read. That’s what I remember, not the plot, but the emotion.
  • A Kind of Loving – Stan Barstow
    Not content with just going English, I went full Yorkshire in Aug ’89, availing myself of Stan Barstow. I absolutely loved Stan Barstow. His books were set in Yorkshire, in the 60s, often around a young man starting out in life and struggling to make ends meet. Vic Brown was the main character. Vic became a trilogy with Watchers on the Shore and A Right True End. I read them back to back. Barstow’s books (I read 6 of them in total) made me realise you don’t have to hide your roots, you can be proud of them.
  • The Crow Road – Iain Banks
    I’ve included this, even though I read it a little later (4th May, 1993, Euston Station). I include this because it’s probably the best book I’ve ever read. Prentice McHoan is Scottish and had a very different upbringing to me, yet it feels wonderfully familiar, not so much the scenes or the situations, but the way Prentice thinks, the emotions he feels. But I didn’t just love the character of Prentice, I loved the way Banks described scenes and I think this was the first time I deeply appreciated how wonderful description could also be. The Crow Road remains one of the most beautiful books to combine character, story and description in my opinion, and there’s one scene in the book that remains my most favourite scene I’ve ever read. I probably will read this book again one day with a fine malt.
  • The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
    My other most favourite Iain Banks novel is The Wasp Factory (since lost and hence not pictured). I wanted my kids (my two boys in particular) to read that book as that also had a huge impact on me and I wanted them to feel some of what I felt. It failed badly, neither of them read it and I felt sad, but then realised what I said at the beginning – you can’t force books on others. The Wasp Factory wasn’t their book, it was mine. Hopefully they will make their own discoveries, and often it’s the discovery process that’s the most exciting.

As a final caveat I should add that I did successfully lend Amis’s Dead Babies to my daughter and she did read it in June 2013 – thanks for that Em, and thanks for also writing your name in the book and continuing the tradition 😉 x

Death in the times of Corona …

My mum was cremated today, and we didn’t even know.

She died in hospital on March 11th, 2020, not from Covid-19, but from cancer. I was there to hold her hand as her life finally slipped away – undoubtedly the most heart wrenching experience and simultaneously the most amazingly poignant experience, I have ever witnessed.

Mum wanted to be cremated and my brother and I started preparations to fulfil her wishes as best we could. We contacted a local funeral services company, we chose the type of ceremony, chose the coffin, discussed the flowers, wrote guest lists, planned the wake and everything else that goes into a funeral for a loved family member.

And we finally settled on a venue and a date, two week’s hence, Monday 30th March.  We placed an announcement in the local newspaper whilst also informing as many family and friends as we could think of.

This was, of course, in the midst of the rising Coronavirus pandemic here in the UK (and most of the rest of the world). It seems a distant memory now, but it was only two weeks ago, and in that short time everything has changed beyond recognition.

We quickly learned that most of mum’s friends, who, like her, were over 70yrs old, would have to self isolate due to the coronavirus, and would not be able to attend the funeral. We then saw the UK slide into full lockdown over the next few days and so we urgently sought advice from the funeral director on what to do. They couldn’t help, they knew as little as we did, and government guidance on funerals during the pandemic was still conspicuous by its absence.

Many frantic discussions ensued, emotions were high, and the guidance we finally received was that, at best, we might be able to have a close family funeral only. Guidance was no more than five people to attend and no more than three people in the hearse.  But we were warned even that might change, nobody knew, and with a large family made up of siblings, children, grandchildren, a great grandchild and a wide circle of friends, this wasn’t at all what we wanted or planned for mum.

We wanted her funeral to be a celebration of her life, an occasion for all, an occasion for crying, laughing, hugging and for telling stories which clearly wasn’t going to happen, and it was with many heavy hearts that we reluctantly decided to have a cremation-only. We would delay the ceremony until later in the year once the pandemic had blown over.

What we hadn’t appreciated was that this also meant a shift in venue and a change of date – cremations without ceremonies don’t take place at standard crematoriums. We therefore wrote to everyone to explain the change and everyone understood – these were difficult times which made for difficult decisions.

And so it felt strange yesterday – 30th March – as that was mum’s original funeral date. We received messages from family and friends sending their thoughts, prayers and love but we also had to explain that we still didn’t have a date for the rearranged cremation.  These were challenging times for getting anything done – switchboards were jammed, people were being furloughed and the funeral industry was facing the same challenges as everyone else. Nevertheless the silence was troubling, and frustrating, and so when I emailed the funeral company yesterday and still didn’t get a reply, I decided to call them today.

After holding for a while I got through to Sue, I gave her the reference number and was placed back on hold whilst she checked the status. When she came back, she explained there was still a small payment outstanding. I was unaware, nobody had informed me and so I offered to pay the balance immediately. Unfortunately the system was down and Sue couldn’t take my payment. She told me someone would call me back later …

“OK that’s fine”, I replied “but can you tell tell me what date mum will be cremated so I can inform family and friends?”

“Yes, it’s today” came Sue’s reply.

I was lost for words, Sue was very apologetic. Everything was ‘crazy’, she said.
As if having a cremation-only wasn’t sad enough, it felt like we had disrespected mum even further by missing the time of her funeral.  Sue couldn’t tell me if the cremation had already taken place, just that it was ‘some time today’.  We couldn’t even remotely send our love and thoughts, couldn’t pay our final respects, couldn’t have a two-minute silence from our distant, isolated homes.

I had to explain to family and friends that we had all missed mum’s cremation. I don’t blame Sue, I don’t blame her employer and I don’t blame the government, but I do feel heartbroken. This was a nightmare scenario that wasn’t even imaginable pre-Corona, and it certainly wasn’t what mum deserved.

We are now firmly focussed on planning mum’s remembrance ceremony sometime in the future (pencilled in for September) and making it the best event we can possibly muster. We will never forget mum and we will make sure we give her the send off she richly deserves as soon as we possibly can. This pandemic will end, life will eventually return to some kind of normality and we will remember mum, but for today, the day of her cremation, there is nothing at all that we can do.

I miss you mum, we all miss you, and tonight I’m going to raise a glass of your favourite wine in your honour, it’s the least and the most I can do.



Mum and I, meeting properly for the first time, 1965